Replying to "Noticing a Consent Problem"

Offering multiple concrete choices can be a good idea if you notice that the person you’re talking to says ‘yes’ OR 'no’ more than usual.

My sister seems to have the opposite issue that you’re describing here; she replies with “no” to a lot of statements, even if I’m suggesting something she usually likes (like going to a movie). And similar to another reader’s experience, open-ended questions can get overwhelming for her. If I ask, “If you don’t want to go to the movies, what do you want to do this afternoon?” she usually answers, “I don’t know”. But if I say, “Would you rather spend time alone?” she’ll say, “No”. At this point I used to walk away, and I would tell her where to find me when she figured out what she wanted to do. Both of us would feel lonely after this happened.

But a few years ago I changed my strategy. The best response from me is the same as for the consent problem you described. If I offer my sister three or four choices of activities, she can figure out what she wants a lot better. And we can go through options or variations until she can communicate what she actually wants to do. We have a lot more fun when we spend time together now!